Eamonn Coyne,
Through the Round Window
(Compass, 2002)

The title of this CD reminds me of a children's television program of my children's youth. The presenter chose a differently shaped window each week to look out upon an aspect of the world. Listening to Through the Round Window, I am struck by how appropriate the title is. Eamonn Coyne invites us to look through a window into a world of wonder -- a world of great music played with great heart by a very talented player.

Through the round window we see and hear an accomplished banjo player giving new life to a music that has never died. Some tracks are familiar. Some are traditional pieces. Others are new compositions.

The principal instrument is the clear pick of the banjo, but other experts and instruments join Coyne to weave a magic spell. I am particularly struck by the third track, "Mazurka & Jigs." The quiet mazurka leads beautifully into the jig. From this, pardon the pun, Coyne swings into "Western Swing," which features a set of barn dances. The notes recall that some of these were learned from old 78s. (Those, for our younger readers, were pre-CD, pre 8-track, pre-LP 12-inch records that played at 78 rpm.)

One of a few vocal pieces featured is "Mary J," written and sung by Kevin Doherty. This is a beautiful song lovingly sung in a mournful style. For the banjo lover comes "Nine String Susannah," which opens with none other than "Oh Susannah" but gets even better as it progresses through two other tunes. Banjo joins guitar and piano for "Highlands," which are Donegal dance tunes. "There and Back Again" uses the usual instruments plus the snare drum, which recalls the old ceili band sound.

Just as you think the CD has ended, hold on. Eamonn's granny Ethna sneaks in a lovely simple version of "The Jolly Beggerman" on a previously unheard bonus track.

This CD will entrance anyone with an interest in good music well played, but if you like the banjo it will transport you to heaven.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 8 February 2003

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